Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Not So Hot

Photos taken by my niece! Tatie and her daughter
Mamie and her youngest grandson Cousins
The skies are grey and there are various spurts of rain today, which means it is much cooler - lovely! We are catching up on sleep - the girls only woke up at 5am this morning which is a definite improvement.

I took so many photos of them enjoying time with their cousins yesterday, it is rather frustrating not being able to blog them yet. Bertie says he will sort out some internet access for me soon(wireless??!).

The kids here are wonderfully creative and the two front yards mean that they have lots of space to put to good use. Today LissaLou is playing with her older cousins, Stella and Delphine, who have made a playhouse out of an old bed that had been chucked out. CassCass spent the morning pushing Baby Luke around in the buggy. He was wearing the same outfit as Baby JoJo and you should have seen the shocked faces of all who passed as they thought we were letting her bump Baby JoJo around!

I had a shock this morning as I discovered LissaLou's new school starts at...8am! Ugh! We will have to keep on with this getting up early lark! She will come back at 11 or so for lunch and then goes back at 2pm till 4.30pm. I asked when I would get the letter saying when she starts school etc, but apparently such information is given out on the radio! But what about all those poor unfortunates such as myself who don't listen to the radio? Speaking of which, the radio really is an integral part of the community here. They have a period each morning and afternoon where they announce all the recent deaths plus every member of the family of that person (can take a while!). I just checked with Bertie and strangely they don't announce the births and marriages.

The girls and I are being ferociously bitten but the boys are somehow avoiding it. Do they have a special boy immunity?

Bertie's sister has a roof made of corrugated steel and when the rain falls (as it is right now) it sounds like an army is approaching! We are hoping to go to the supermarket later but as there is no car available, I think it might be a rather wet affair.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

On Life Here

Fairy cousins
More cousins

Oh, it is hot hot hot!

Last night we all got eaten up by lots of mosquitoes, must get nets sorted. Baby JoJo is the only one to have one and I doubt they will bite him, as the girls were fine as babies.

We had a very warm welcome from the many relatives here last night - one niece was delighted to learn we are here for her birthday and for Christmas and for Easter...

We enjoyed some delicious sorbet yesterday - not sorbet as you know it, but a calorie-laden ice-cream like sorbet, made with coconut milk, condensed milk and churned round and round in a sorbet-making barrel surrounded by ice and the right kind of salt. I am looking forward to getting photos online sometime.

It is sooo hot!

LissaLou and CassCass are not quite into french yet, preferring to speak in english and trust that everyone understands! It was so cute this morning though to hear CassCass imitating her cousin in french - and hopefully picking up some phrases on the way!

Baby JoJo has been much hugged and loved; apparently he is bigger than his 9 month old cousin!

Did I mention the heat?

At the moment I am interneting at Bertie's sister's house next door, with the infamous Les Feux De L'Amour in the background. This is a terrible American soap, but for some reason everyone here adores it! I did use it to learn french during my year abroad, so I am disturbingly familiar with the characters, 10 years later!

I am struggling away with the azerty keyboard. Slow work!

Well, back to doing as little as possible in this heat!

Remembering The Days Of Travelling Light

Checking in
Lots and lots
and lots of luggage
On the plane waiting for take off
Hurray, we are finally here in Guadeloupe! Sunday evening saw me spending hours squeezing everything into our allotted cases, no easy task and one I really don't enjoy. There is always something extra to fit in - this time it was a lovely set of plates and bowls (15 kilos) that Bertie's sister got us for our wedding. After 7 years she thought it about time that we take it!! I was concerned about its safety in the rough hands of the plane people, but astonishingly it arrived with just one tiny chip on one plate.

Bertie's brother in law went beyond the call of duty and brought his car over for us, so we squeezed all of us and our luggage into two cars. We have previously chuckled over the state of cars in France - in their favour, they don't just buy a new car every year like in the UK, but get the full worth out of each one they own. Very frugal and eco-friendly. However, there are some cars which simply amaze me that they are still on the road... But we got to the airport safely, at which point Bertie said it was a great achievement as the car could be somewhat capricious! I am glad he didn't mention that before!

Oh, so many bags!! We managed to get them all checked in and smile our way through security - although they confiscated a bottle of sun tan lotion. The advantage of travelling with a family is that we got the front middle row on the plane so lots of leg space. The kids were great - their biggest crime was giggling hysterically during the film! There were more people watching them than the film! Note, THE film - yes, we were in the olden days of one screen for all, and one film during 8 hours! As for the food, I could have wept! The girls had a box of crisps, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and er, oh yes chocolate milk!

As you can imagine, it took rather a while to get all our baggage at the end. I felt for the ladies next to me wandering around with a list: 11 bags, 4 suitcases, 3 something else... They still left before us though! We can't work out what happened to Baby JoJo's pop up travel cot but we don't need it so that is no great loss. After negotiating 2 laden trollies and a buggy and 3 children out the door, it was great to see Bertie's sister come to meet us and his brother with a very large boot in his car!

The poor girls though, they had gone to bed at 11pm the night before and then CassCass slept for an hour or so on the plane. Then with all the welcoming festivites at home, we didn't get them to bed till 9pm...Guadeloupe time! That's 3am French time! Then CassCass woke at 3am and didn't go back to sleep! I am sure you can imagine how reluctantly I got up with her! I am glad to say she has gone down for a lengthy siesta now (couldn't get LissaLou to!). Hopefully we can get them all back into a routine and able to get to sleep on their own - no one has managed it for the last week which is a bit of a shock having had such good sleepers till now!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Happy Anniversary!

This time last year we celebrated 6 years of marriage in the beautiful Scotland, this time we are enjoying a glass of champagne and a bit of zouk in the delightful department of Seine et Marne...
7 wonderful years, thank you Toto!
And of course, happy anniversary to our fellow celebrators - have a wonderful day! To see the two happy couples, have a look at the final photos here.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Finishing In France

We have had a lovely few days with the relatives and enjoying the sunshine. Baby JoJo has been much adored - their favourite word to describe him is "baraquƩ" which means, well, solid! The girls have spent their time outside mainly on the swing and picking up lots of bobos. I even managed to read a bit (very good book on Simplicity by Richard Foster - I would like some in my life!); We have been fed to exploding...All very relaxing!

This evening we packed all our 8 cases - I think we are near the top of our 160 kilos limit! And tomorrow at 2pm we are finally...Going Gwada!

Thursday, 24 July 2008


Sisters at scrabble The bees on the lavender bush at the front door
Happy Anniversary!
Resting in the garden
Just to say Bertie FINALLY got the flat cleared and the car packed, but missed the ferry in the process! With his usual luck, they let him on the next free of charge!

We very much enjoyed our experience of the new Eurostar - St Pancras is a fantastic station and the train journey so speedy and smooth. Was that a good plug from a former employee?! The girls behaved pretty well except for running through security without us and tiredness began to set in when we arrived. Mum brought lots of fantastic things to keep them entertained and it did the job. As I tried to remember the name of the station where Bertie's SIL lived, hey presto! there she was to meet us! A very pleasant surprise.

We have just waved farewell to Mum and are enjoying the delights of semi-rural France! So nice not to be packing and rushing anymore! Well, till Monday anyway...

Photos will happen when I get my computer working.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Bye Bye Flat

In twelve hours time I will be setting off with Mum, the girls and Baby JoJo to Paris, and after one of the hardest days of my recent life (perhaps given birth excepted, though I am not convinced!) everything is pretty much packed up and all the furniture has gone to various homes. I am waiting for Bertie to take me to my parents with one last load of stuff (they are amazing, fitting it all in somewhere!), feeding Baby JoJo, and remembering the last 7 years in this flat.

We moved in when we got married and our first view of the flat was not promising! I am not living here, declared Bertie. However, the balcony won us over and a lick of pumpkin paint did wonders! Since then, this little one-bedroomed flat has seen the arrival of LissaLou, then further squashed by CassCass and just when we thought we couldn't fit anyone else in, along came Baby JoJo! We have loved the balcony in summer, hated the damp in winter. We have been blessed with Waterlow Park, Hampstead Heath, Highgate Woods on our doorstep (well, almost!). Not to mention the bonus of living opposite our hospital! Our neighbours have been great, and Bertie just had an emotional farewell with them, whilst they kindly took half our possessions off our hands! And now we move on to a new home...

I certainly couldn't have done today or even recently without Mum's help - so a huge thank you to her! And Bertie has been greatly assisted by Lloyd, who is also driving with him to France (now we finally have the insurance sorted, phew!).

Freecycle has been great - we have had a steady stream of people coming to get things tonight. They get something for free, and we get someone to move not so easy to move furniture out the house! You should have seen the charming Italians struggling to get our huge fridge freezer down the stairs then into their little VW Golf! I didn't like to take photos... And the only way to get the sofa out in the end was the way it came in - over the balcony! Thanks to Maggie for the suggestion! Happily there was no one underneath...

I am looking forward to spending a bit more time with the kids now. The poor things have been very neglected these last few days, and received much of my wrath every time they tipped over piles or unpacked cases... They have also not had half as much sleep as they ought, so I am looking forward to re-establishing a routine asap! I am hoping we don't suffer too much on the train over tomorrow with three little exhausted ones. Bertie still has to remove the laminate floor tonight then drive to Dover for midday. What a guy!

Thanks to all you who have been praying for us - you know who you are! God has answered and has kept me sane!

Next update should be from la Belle France!

Lessons I Have Learnt This Week

It is my last night here in our flat (ahh!) and I am surrounded by boxes and not quite so much mess. It is getting there - and with only 36 hours before we set off, it needs to get there even quicker!

I have picked up some useful tips for the future during this rather stressful period.

1. Don't move house
2. Don't buy so many things (I will certainly give each future purchase lengthy consideration to see if I will be glad to pack/store/ship it!)
3. Don't book your baby's final immunisations on the day you are packing up the house (poor JoJo had three jabs, and I have never seen him so upset as this afternoon. Thankfully his first dose of calpol did the trick)
4. Don't forget to arrange for someone to disconnect your gas cooker - we did!
5. Don't try and lend your car to anyone for a lenghty period - the insurance companies don't appreciate such behaviour and make finding insurance practically impossible
6. Don't try and sort out such insurance policies the day before you leave
7. Don't try and pack up a one bedroom flat with 3 under 5s wandering around
8. Just face it, nobody wants your old sofa
9. Say yes to every offer of help! Mum with the girls and Lloyd and Rufin with the lifting and transporting were lifesavers today
10. Get someone else to do all the packing.

It's going to take me a year in the Caribbean to recover from all this!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Less Than One Week

Packing has now begun in earnest! Our first freecyclers came last night and took the chest of drawers and CD tower and were going to take the bookshelf but decided against it - not before the entire contents of all these three were emptied on to the floor! Walking across our floor is now an evern more hazardous occupation. than previously... Have a look at these and have pity on me! Boxes and piles everywhere! I am beginning to wonder how in the world we are going to store them all but Mum is full of confidence - thanks for your encouragement! I am still trying to get rid of lots of stuff where possible and it is great to see what can be recycled. I found lots of information about recycling textiles here so not only do I have a charity shop pile but also a pile of unwearables for the Islington Recyling Centre.
Can you believe that these coat hangers (the photo does not do the amount justice!) are only half of all we own? Why so many?? Even more worryingly, we had an item of clothing on every one of them, and occasionally still didn't have enough hangers! Conclusion: we own too many clothes!
We debated whether it would be cheaper to ship LissaLou out rather than take her in the plane but decided we would miss her cheery smile too much!
Our countdown chart is filling up - very misleadingly, it counts down till our flight to Guadeloupe, when in fact all the hard work has to be done 5 days before!
The worst of it is trying to pack with CassCass around. LissaLou is at nursery and Baby JoJo just lies happily cooing most the time, but CassCass has to touch every single item, take everything out of the box it is in, push each pile is such a test of my already limited patience! I am looking forward to having time again to play with her and read endless stories. (Or am I just dreaming?!) However, we did manage a bit of creativity this morning and created this masterpiece - don't you just love the photo!
And entirely unrelated but yesterday we had the pleasure of a visit from our Pastor's wife, just a few weeks away from giving birth. Don't she and Baby JoJo make a lovely couple?

Sports Day

We visited the beautiful Highgate Woods for our Sports Day and unlike the non-stop rain of Bertie's Sports Day one week ago, we had lovely sunny weather. Phew!

LissaLou proved that she is her father's daughter by winning the run as fast as you can to the other end of the track (100m sprint perhaps?) - here is her victory photo!
During the filming of the above race, CassCass managed to attack 6 biscuits brought back from France the previous day be Bertie! Not surprisingly she didn't manage any lunch...
The other two races were the egg and spoon (which became pan and ball for nursery!) and the sack race (so funny to watch! but this became bouncing along for the littlest ones)
LissaLou lost her hat in the first race and came near the end, but went very steadily on this bouncing one to come third or fourth. Good for her!
Mum joined us for the picnic lunch after the racing - neither of us were brave enough to go in for the Parents' race (Bertie will have to attend next time!)
LissaLou and her BF at nursery Afterwards the entire school descended on the playpark - my sincere sympathies for any mums enjoying the tranquility beforehand! Baby JoJo got his first swing in the special baby swings, and had a great time with LissaLou pushing him.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Four Months!

This baby continues to grow and delight us as he delights in the world around! Rather hard to keep him still long enough to take this photo! He is still an excellent sleeper and eater, although he has started getting much more distracted by the world around when he is supposed to be enjoying his milk!
He is also an active baby now, constantly kicking his legs and waving his arms around. He is getting much more control in his neck and posture, and stands really firmly if you hold him on his feet.

He will grasp at anything that comes within reach - as the girls have discovered to their dismay, finding their tempting curls wrapped tightly in his little fingers! Mine too, for that matter... He will also grab at the toys hanging down on his mat.
Just like everyone else in the family, he is a very chatty soul, cooing and ahhing away for hours. If you want to get him to chuckle and almost burst with joy, just tickle him under his chin!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Going On In Our House

Right now...

Bertie is coming back from a very long day trip to Boulogne with his pupils.

My tummy is not feeling too good - too much picnic food?!

The girls are sleeping - which makes a change, recently they have been popping back into see us many many times before finally going to sleep. Funny the first time, decidedly less so the umpteenth time!

My email box is filling up with requests for our furniture from freecycle - I heartily recommend you try it out! Avoids landfill and declutters your life - wonderful! If anyone has any tips on how to select the lucky receipient of your stuff, I would be most interested to hear!

There are 12 boxes in our kitchen waiting to be packed for shipping and storage. Looking at my hectic timetable this week I am not quite sure when this is going to be achieved.

There is an awful lot of mess. Everywhere.

There are only 9 boxes left to cross off on our countdown chart, ooerr.

I have bought and been given a very exciting selection of books for Guadeloupe, and it is SUCH a struggle not to start reading them now!


Sunday was a pretty busy day - it began somewhat earlier than usual with our church AGM, which we were only half an hour late to! The service then had the special occasion of Baby JoJo's dedication. Plenty of our friends made (in several cases considerable) effort to come and it was really lovely to have them there. A big thank you to you all!
LLCoolJ kindly entertained the childrenPreparing for his big momentDuring which he was a very chilled baby!Enjoying the rest of the serviceSt Andrews GirlsSqueezing in a little autograph hunting! See here for more details...
Baby JoJo and his uncle
Taking all this posing very calmly!
Don't we ladies have great colour co-ordination?
Oops, what happened to CassCass?!
Thanks to Mei-Li for the very trendy shirt Baby JoJo wore - Bertie is getting quite jealous of his extensive wardrobe!

Can't Get Too Much Of A Good Thing

Well, that definitely applies to Kenwood! Not content with being there on Saturday night, we took the loudspeaker at their word when they implored "Come again soon" and were there again the following day, for our leaving picnic. Much to my delight, BBC 5 day forecast actually got this one right and it was a beautifully sunny day. It was great to have so many people come, both from our church and friends from elsewhere - thanks to you all for making the effort!

There was plenty going on - eating, chilling, chatting, catching up, reading, climbing trees, tap dancing, decorating gingerbread men, getting covered in chocolate ice cream, playing football and frisbee, sleeping - so I had to take plenty of photos! I'll let them do the talking!

And saving the best till last...